Thursday, November 14, 2013

What's in a Name?

GENDER: Feminine
USAGE: EnglishGermanDutch
PRONOUNCED: MEL-ə-nee (English), ME-lah-nee (German)  
Meaning & History
From the French form of the Latin name Melania, derived from Greek μελαινα (melaina) meaning "black, dark". This was the name of a Roman saint who gave all her wealth to charity in the 5th century. Her grandmother was also a saint with the same name.
The name was common in France during the Middle Ages, and was it introduced from there to England, though it eventually became rare. Interest in it was revived by the character Melanie Wilkes from the novel 'Gone with the Wind' (1936) and the subsequent movie adaptation (1939).

For years I've known my name means "dark". It was a family joke of sorts. My sister's name means "light", and she has fair skin, blond hair, and hazel eyes. I'm dark haired with brown eyes, and skin that tans. 

Let's be clear -- I like my name. I like being a Melanie. I'm not found of diminutives, but I don't mind Mellie. But that definition has caused some trouble for me over the years. My name means "dark" and I am the one who was abused, repeatedly. I assume my family tends to see me as the "black sheep" because of some stands I've taken. 

The real reasons my sister and I have the names we do is not about coloring. Our dad was an English professor. My sister is named after a character in an Edgar Lee Master's poem, and after ancestors on both sides of the family. A nice and meaningful choice. It reverberated well when my father used it in my sister's wedding ceremony -- reading the poem in its entirety.

I on the other hand am named after Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. Named after a character in a popular novel from the 1930's. No familial connections. When I was a kid, my grandmother would take us to see "Gone with the Wind" each time it came out in theaters, and I would be reminded of my namesake, the long-suffering Melanie whose husband almost cheats on her with the more exciting Scarlett. Mewling was a the word I attached to her as I grew older.

I re-watched the movie a few years ago, for the umpteenth time. This time as an adult dealing with PTSD and healing from childhood sexual abuse. And I noticed something. Melanie Wilkes is no mewling weakling. Melanie Wilkes is one tough cookie, full of grace, compassion, and strength. So I began to think about her and me in a different light. Maybe I'm not the bad guy. Maybe I'm gracious, compassionate, and tough. I like those terms a lot more than mewling. 

linking up with Writer's Workshop


  1. GWTW is my favorite book and movie ever. I love that you are named after one of it's characters! And I always thought Melanie Wilkes was the strongest character in the story...she endured so much.

  2. That's right...Melanie Wilkes IS one strong cookie...and she has a heart of gold. She is well worth being a namesake!

  3. I love that you're choosing to see the positive in your namesake. Thank goodness you don't have to deal with Scarlett! ;)

  4. It's interesting how our perception of certain stories is so vastly different between childhood and adulthood. I remember watching Gigi as a child and thinking how wonderfully romantic it was. Then as an adult, I was disgusted by the idea that Gigi's family were so ready to turn her into someone's mistress, and more disgusted that she was "saved" by becoming his wife. I write romance. I love my HEA! But I hate thinking the heroine can ONLY be happy if the right man picks her.

    I'm named after "Little Women." I did not marry rich like Amy, nor did I die young like Beth. I'd say I came out even lol!


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